News

Scottish Music Playlist (33) – New Releases

Our latest playlist features 35 minutes of amazing new Scottish music releases from The Canny Band, Miguel Girão, Ally Forsyth, Lauren Collier, Gillian Fleetwood, The Paul McKenna Band, Rant, Ailie Robertson, and Seán Gray.

Click here to listen to, follow and share playlist 33.

Make sure to follow the TMF on Spotify to keep up to date with all our Scottish music playlists.

 

News

What does Scottish Ceilidh share with Chinese Hanfu and Mongolian dance cultures

In October 2023 we welcomed our new dance artists-in-residence Lingqiao Hong and Yingzhou Xie. Their residency is part of our ongoing partnership with Moray House School of Education and Sport at the University of Edinburgh which enables graduate students in Dance Education and Science to undertake their formal placement at Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland. By December 2023, Lingqiao and Yingzhou, affectionately known as Ling and Jayden, had made a substantial curatorial contribution to our new production Elegies and explored three ceilidh dances at three different locations across Edinburgh. Ceilidh-wise, their mission was to critically reflect on their experience and share their thoughts in a joint review specifically commissioned for our own online platform for reviews of traditional dance events across Scotland. What does Scottish Ceilidh share with Chinese Hanfu and Mongolian dance cultures? Read the review to find out.

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One, Two, Three – Ceilidh On

Review by Lingqiao Hong and Yingzhou Xie

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If you were to arrive in Edinburgh in autumn 2023 you wouldn’t have to try hard to find somewhere to go ceilidh dancing. The city appeared to be experiencing a ceilidh boom following the Covid-inflicted hiatus of no social dancing across Edinburgh. We were honoured to participate in three different ceilidh dance nights, each at a distinct location – the British Legion Hall, Portobello Town Hall and the Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Our initial impressions? Enthusiasm and vitality. Ceilidh dance is not just a social activity, but an integral part of Scottish culture. It reflects Scotland’s history, traditions and community spirit, deepening connections through physical and eye contact, and sharing a cultural heritage together. Under the soft skies of Scotland, the lively scene of ceilidh dance seems to connect everyone’s hearts closely. This is not just a dance, but a fusion of hearts, a warm embrace of the community. As traditional instruments play together, people’s footsteps lightly follow the rhythm, dancing to the melody filled with joy.

Whether it is the laughter of children, the passion of the youth, or the steadiness of the elders, every dance step crosses the boundaries of age, connecting different souls. Each exchange of glances in the dance is a silent communication, every interaction an extension of friendship. Here, we are not just dancing, but conversing with history, shaking hands with culture, and embracing the world.

The true charm of the Scottish ceilidh dance lies in its inclusivity. It welcomes people from different countries, of different skin colours, without any preset prejudice, only pure acceptance and joy. In such an atmosphere, warmth and hospitality are not only Scottish traditions but are also created by every dancer. The people dancing do not differentiate; their smiles and hugs tell a story of unity, joy, and vitality.

Music is the soul of ceilidh dance. The loud singing of the accordion and the vigorous melody of the violin are indispensable to this dance. Every fluctuation of the tune resonates with our heartbeat, driving the change in our steps. The pace and the ups and downs of the tune cleverly match the rhythm of the dance, leading participants into a world of dance filled with emotion and stories. Especially in dances like Strip the Willow, the acceleration of the music intensifies the enthusiasm of the dance, showcasing the uniqueness of ceilidh as a social dance.

In ceilidh dance, the attire is not just for decoration, but also a symbol of identity and culture. The men’s kilts and women’s pleated skirts adorned with Scottish tartan patterns exude historical charm with every twirl. The intricate details, such as the delicate buckles on the belts and the elaborate embroidery on the shawls, narrate the profound cultural heritage of Scotland. At the same time, the style of these costumes echoes the elegance of Chinese Hanfu robes and the splendid attire of the Mongolian people, showcasing the respect and preservation of traditional clothing across different cultures. These garments are not only symbols of identity but also witnesses to cultural identity and history.

As for the movements, the actions in ceilidh dance are a display of social interaction and skill. From the simplicity of hand-in-hand to the complexity of group choreography, every step and turn requires tacit understanding and coordination among the dancers. It’s not only a test of the dancers’ memory and response speed, but also of their spirit of teamwork. The movements in the dance foster interdependence and cooperation, thereby deepening social connections.

The ceilidh dance evening soon drew to a close, and people clasped arms, singing Auld Lang Syne together. They reminisced about the past, celebrated the present friendships, and looked forward to the future. It was an emotional release, a celebration of shared experiences, and a tribute to the passage of time. We felt not just the end of a tradition, but also the continuation of a culture.

 

 

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Review and images by Lingqiao Hong and Yingzhou Xie. Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland residency mentorship and editorial support by Iliyana Nedkova. Residency coordianted by Heather Rikic, Moray House School of Education and Sport, the University of Edinburgh. 

 

News

TRACS appointed to Safeguard Scotland’s Intangible Cultural Heritage

The team from TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) and music students from Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd, the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music based in Plockton, are heading off to Kaustinen in Finland next week (14-18 February) as part of an educational exchange with Kaustinen College of Music, and to witness first-hand the work the team at the Finnish Folk Music Institute does to safeguard Finland’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH).

Kaustinen, which is home to the world renowned Folk Music Festival, is best known for its four century-old fiddling tradition. Since 2018, the team at the Finnish Folk Music Institute has been working as one of UNESCO’s expert advisors on intangible cultural heritage to help safeguard this fiddling tradition and Finland’s other unique cultural practices.

Steve Byrne, Director of TRACS speaking at the Intangible Cultural Heritage Conference in Birnam Arts in 2023. Photo Neil Hanna

In December last year, TRACS received confirmation of its own successful application to become an accredited NGO advisor on ICH (subject to final rubber-stamping in July 2024) and is now keen to make valuable personal connections with its opposite numbers at the Finnish Folk Music Institute and other organisations working in the fields of ICH across the globe. During this trip they hope to gain a better understanding of how safeguarding works in practice, witness first-hand the uniquely vibrant musical and cultural life of Kaustinen, as well as supporting the school exchange as an example of international tradition-sharing and ICH in practice.The trip will be documented  to allow TRACS to report back and share their findings with partner ICH organisations in Scotland and the wider UK.

Intangible Cultural Heritage is a tradition, practice, or living expression of a group or community. This can include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, and traditional crafts.  Examples of ICH in Scotland are wide reaching, and include practices such as Shetland’s Up Helly Aa Festival or the Edinburgh Mela, cultural traditions such as bothy ballads, bagpiping, and clootie wells, games such as shinty, the making of food such as haggis, and traditional crafts such as thatching and Fair Isle knitting.

Illustrator Sarah Ahmad of Floating Design mapping Intangible Cultural Heritage at the ICH Conference at Birnam Arts in 2023. Photo credit Neil Hanna

TRACS’s appointment as an expert advisor to UNESCO means, among other things, that they are now recognised internationally for the work they have been doing on ICH and, along with Museums and Galleries Scotland, are one of only two organisations in Scotland who experts on intangible cultural heritage and advisors in this field. Both organisations along with Historic Environment Scotland and Creative Scotland are part of the ICH Scotland Partnership Group which was sent up to safeguard ICH in Scotland and drive forward UK ratification of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.. This convention has already been ratified by 180 countries worldwide, and in December 2023 the UK announced their intention to ratify it following the outcomes of a consultation by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which closes on 29 February 2024. This live consultation will inform the UK government’s strategy for recording and safeguarding ICH and will gather opinions from the public and organisations across the UK on the types of cultural practices and traditions that should be protected and sustained for future generations.

Link to survey: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/2003-unesco-convention-for-the-safeguarding-of-the-intangible-cultural-heritage

Director of TRACS Steve Byrne said:

“We are delighted that the UK has now agreed to ratify the UNESCO ICH Convention. It helps shine a light on the wealth of cultural traditions practised and treasured in local communities the world over, but which often go neglected by the mainstream. ICH is in many ways what might be called ‘everyday culture’ and it is crucial that we work to support the ways in which communities see themselves and make sense of the world around them through music, dance, story or craft. A huge amount of work has taken place internationally over the past two decades on ICH safeguarding so we are keen to learn from our friends in Finland ways in which Scotland can look after its traditional cultures most effectively.”  

Mike Vass said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our students and staff to experience the traditions, music and culture of Finland – courtesy of our friends and colleagues in Kaustinen. We see this shared venture as broadening the horizons of our students, deepening their understanding of the world and giving valuable insight into the preservation and appreciation of our collective cultural heritage.”

Hilkka Rauhala from Kaustinen’s Music College said: “We are looking forward to hosting our friends from Scotland next week, here in Kaustinen. Our trip to Plockton in October 2019 seems so long ago, I’m sure we will have a lot to talk about, especially now that TRACS will be joining us as an expert advisor to UNESCO on intangible cultural heritage.”

Teachers and students from Kaustinen College of Music and Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd, the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, in October 2019.

Since it was set up in 2011, TRACS has been key to developing and showcasing Scotland’s rich cultural heritage, advocating for the traditional arts, and making music, storytelling and dance inclusive and accessible aspects of everyday life across Scotland. It has also been instrumental to the success of the annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival, and the People’s Parish Project, and supports communities to discover and rediscover a ‘sense of place’ for present and future generations through stories, traditions, and heritage history led by local creative practitioners.

ICH Consultation

Read our Wee Guide to ICH

News

In the Hartwood

Anyone think it’s a good idea to write and perform a faerie story about a paupers cemetery in the grounds of a decommissioned psychiatric hospital?

Anyone?

It’s a wet November day, on the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh, I glance out of the window and see a grand, baronial-style mansion looming out of the mist, but it’s derelict, no more than a charred husk. The next station is Hartwood. Sensing a story, I google ruined mansion, Hartwood and Hartwood Hospital pops up on Wikipedia; a psychiatric hospital for 100 years decommissioned in 1995.

If I hadn’t met Margaret McSeveney a playwright from Shotts, my curiosity might have ended there, but when we meet to discuss storytelling and Spotlight Shotts, an organisation committed to reinvigorating the once thriving arts scene in the area Margaret asks if I’d like to write a play together and without hesitation I reply Yes!

Later as we leaf through Margaret’s amazing collection of theatre posters and programmes, I talk about my work in mental health and mention Hartwood Hospital.
Everyone in the area knows Hartwood, a local landmark with imposing towers. Margaret tells me her sons had summer jobs there, one worked in the library and the other served tea, she asks if I’ve heard of Hartwood Paupers cemetery, where patients who died with no money or family to claim them were buried with only a number to mark their grave.

After the closure of the hospital, the cemetery fell into neglect and many lairs and their markers were lost under mud and undergrowth but, Margaret tells me, a group called Friends of Hartwood, are dedicated to finding them and reuniting each with the names of those interred.

Would I like to visit?

Our first meeting with Loraine Duncan and Rona Condie Barr from Friends of Hartwood is in the cemetery, now a beautiful space, with flowers, teapot planters left by visitors, benches, interpretation boards displaying names and corresponding lair numbers, and even a wee library.
We learn that nobody was buried here after 1954 and hear some histories. Felice McHardy, was an enigmatic figure in dark veils, known as Stra’ven’s Russian Princess; John Williamson or Jock O’ Law believed he was a knight of the realm; baby Martha’s grave has windchimes which tinkle even on a still day; thirteen soldiers are buried without military honours because they died after the great war; and there are women who drowned themselves in a nearby reservoir.

Rona has planted hundreds of bulbs and seeds which bloom and fragrance the air. She tells me about her dreams, in one, she saw a line of soldiers, in the corner of the cemetery where they’re buried, long before the lair markers were recovered.
Most people laid to rest in Hartwood were othered in life, and not all experienced mental illness, among their number were unmarried mothers, gay men, and people with dementia or epilepsy…I learn that when the hospital closed and old administrative documents were cleared out, a ledger containing the only record of burials, was
chucked into a skip.

If a member of nursing staff hadn’t rescued the ledger and given it to
Motherwell Heritage centre…

When the friends started clearing weeds from the cemetery and researching its history, they met with resistance. Not everyone wanted the secrets of Hartwood cemetery to be revealed, but undeterred they navigated ill-will and bureaucracy to transform the place from an eerie wilderness where no birds sang, to a cherished community space.

I ask if I can share the story and they give me their blessing. but Lorraine asks,
How will you share the stories?
I can’t answer yet, all I know is the story, like the cemetery, needs a community.

We are commissioned to create a storytelling performance for SISF Right to be Human and begin by hosting three community workshops. The first happens at Hartwood attracting thirty attendees, the second at Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health’s Wellbeing Hub and third at Stane Primary School in Shotts where the children give up their golden time to participate. They’re lively, social affairs which create space for people, interested in Hartwood’s story, to contribute ideas and reminiscences. Each workshop begins with a traditional tale: Rashiecoats, Thomas the Rhymer and Tam Lin and participants craft felt flowers, which I sew onto an army surplus blanket creating the blanket of Earth and flowers which will symbolise Hartwood in our storytelling performances.

An online search for further information about Felice McHardy, one of Hartwood’s interred, leads me to local historian, Bob Currie who wrote a book about Stra’ven’s Russian princess. I reach out and he invites me to lunch at his retirement community in Lesmahagow. Here I discover that Felice, really a Polish baroness, was married to an
Edinburgh Doctor of Music, Robert MacHardy, whose compositions, commissioned by aristocracy and world-famous sopranos, have all but disappeared into obscurity…though a few copies remain in the music archives of the British Library.

Hartwood is already a faerie tale, more than any municipal graveyard, it offers a space where living and deceased commune, a place of dreams and stories, I imagine the faerie queen leading us to this liminal realm and can almost hear harp music.
I am excited when Heather Yule agrees to accompany the story, and her playing creates enchantment. All I can find of Robert MacHardy’s music is a fragment of his Fantasia which Heather weaves through the performance like a golden thread.

October and the Storytelling Festival approaches, I’ve lived, breathed and, as Rona predicted, dreamed the story for months. Margaret who has been with me on this adventure, helps prepare the performance, having staged two plays at the Netherbow in the 90’s her flair for dramatic tension and focus on detail is reassuring.

Without giving away the narrative or any surprises, I can reveal that fantasy and reality merge in the Hartwood, but the true story’s even more incredible.

Is it the responsibility of the living to share stories of those who no longer have a voice? I believe so, and the Friends of Hartwood’s mission resonates, but whatever you think, or whoever you choose to remember, the ones who lived before us paved the way for all we hold dear.

Since SISF 2023 Friends of Hartwood have become National Lottery’s Scottish Charity of the Year and secured official recognition for their thirteen soldiers who will be honoured with a war memorial. They prove in all they do, that a few determined people who care can make a difference. Hartwood may no longer be a hospital, but it is a place of healing and the cemetery, now a tranquil green oasis, welcomes visitors and inspires wellbeing.

News

World Trad Dance Sessions

Fancy trying something new and different in 2024? On the 24th February 2024 we are kicking off a new series of FREE beginner and family-friendly, drop-in world trad dance classes in the warm and welcoming space of Stockbridge Library, 11 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh, EH3 5BA.

Not familiar with world trad dance? Expect to dance around the world to the tunes and steps of Old Time Scottish (a precursor of Ballroom), Bollywood, Southern Italian Pizzica, American Line and Lindy Hop. These taster sessions will offer unforgettable fun experiences led by our qualified dance teachers and accompanied by live music. Soak in the history along with some fun moves so you can get on the dance floor and give it a go!

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The block of five sessions in early 2024 will run at the Stockbridge Library 24 February – 23 March 2024 – free and open to all on a drop-in basis. Please note that all under 12 year olds should be accompanied by a guardian. Places are limited to 20 per session and available on first come first served basis upon registration in advance. Please fill in the brief registration form and we will be in touch to confirm your space/s.

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 REGISTER NOW

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PIZZICA PIZZICA

with Lara Russo, Inesa Vėlavičiūtė and Michela Furin (dance teachers), Alessandro Parlato (tambourine), Michele Quarta (voice and guitar) and Simone Caffari (voice, guitar and recorder)

Saturday, 24 February 2024, 12-1pm

Pizzica pizzica is a traditional folk dance from Puglia, South of Italy. An energetic and playful dance performed during family gatherings and town festivals. Its music and moves are deeply related to the healing ritual of Tarantism. During the workshop you will feel the cathartic rhythm of the tambourine, learn the main steps of the dance and experience its different dynamics. You will go back home with a huge smile on your face!TDFS logo_ENG.jpg

 

BOLLYWOOD

with Apeksha Bhattacharyya (dance teacher) and Gourab Dey (vocals and guitar)

Wednesday, 28 February 2024, 6.30-7.30pm

Join us for this high energetic, vibrant and fun session. We will enjoy learning choreography and movement to a specific Bollywood song with a focus on expressions, coordination and emotions. You will be encouraged to explore you own creativity and love for dance, as well as perfect your Bollywood steps while being accompanied by live music.

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OLD TIME SCOTTISH

with Pia Walker (dance teacher) and Bernie Hewitt (accordion)

Saturday, 9 March 2024, 2-3.30pm

Old Time dancing is probably the most endangered Scottish dance style, but worth resurrecting. There are dances up and down the country for just this style of dance and for the dancer it opens up the possibility of going to dances that are not high-octane ceilidhs, nor Scottish country dancing, although quite a few of the dances are included in the ceilidh dance style repertoire. Come and have a go at something Scottish but different.

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LINDY HOP

with Rob Armitage (dance teacher and drums), Emily Raithby (dance teacher), Adam Harries (saxophone) and Nicholas Franck (keyboard)

Wednesday, 13 March 2024, 6.30-7.30pm

Come and try Lindy Hop – a swing dance from the 1930-40s founded by Black American communities. It is all about feeling the rhythms and bringing your own personality while sharing a dance with another person. You don’t need to come with a partner as we will change around in the session, just wear something you can move around comfortably in and footwear that is not too grippy – we recommend not wearing high heels.

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AMERICAN COUNTRY LINE

with Angel Godwin (dance teacher) and dance musician tbc

Saturday, 23 March 2024, 12-1pm

Low impact session except for the occasional jump! Accompanied by country music, you will learn the origins of the genre of American Country Line while going through several of the dances. Every dance is performed in lines and is learned through doing – there is a lot of repetition! Feel free to wear cowboy boots or sneakers for the session!

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As the only national charitable organisation of its kind dedicated to the advancement of all forms of world dance with roots in traditional culture, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland has curated these five sessions as part of our ongoing partnership with Edinburgh Libraries in advance of Pomegranates – Scotland’s festival of international traditional dance 25-29 April 2024: https://linktr.ee/pomegranatesfest. The sessions were made possible through initial public funding from the City of Edinburgh Council Warm and Welcoming Spaces.

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Images courtesy of contributing artists and partners

News

News from G.A.S

The Grampian Association of Storytellers – GAS

Delighted to give you all a wee introduction to – ‘fit we are a’ aboot’. We create a friendly spot where you can listen to, tell, and find your way into the magic and craft of storytelling.

We are The Grampian Association of Storytellers – GAS for short. GAS was started many years ago by Grace Banks and Jackie Ross, friends who love storytelling and supported many well-known names onto the storytelling directory. Maggie Fraser, Pauline Cordiner, Diana Peers, Anna Fancett and two new names just added Cara Silversmith, and Phyll McBain to name a few. GAS has always been a place to find storytellers willing to offer support, coaching, and run a workshop or two along the way.

Talking of workshops, our recent one, run by Nicola Wright on “Finding stories in Heritage” has created a real buzz of interest and a new project is well in hand.  We tell many stories face-to-face at St Peter’s Heritage Centre Peterculter and are going to create a story tour of the Heritage Centre this coming session.  This is a wonderful opportunity to give back and allow our up-and-coming tellers the chance to tell with support along the way. This fun weekend will likely be in May.

The workshop was part of the new Aberdeen & Beyond Storytelling Festival.  This is a Partnership with Elphinstone Institute, Aberdeen University, Jackie Ross and GAS. Fourteen events were held. We created a very varied programme of local tellers, tellers on the apprentice scheme, and of course Guest tellers from around the world, thanks to sponsorship from the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. Great fun and a great success, even with red storm warning getting in the way. We came out the other side refreshed and excited to move forward as we keep sharing the craft of storytelling.

You can join us on the path, check out our Facebook page for details of events. First Friday Flings are our core activity within GAS. To date from Lockdown, we have been running these as Hybrid meetings which is important to us as we now have an international membership of our wee group. The diversity has been such a joy, and we plan to keep it going.

We have just finished our winter sessions on Zoom, where we invite tellers whom you would not easily get to hear to lead one of our First Friday Flings. Great tellers this year. Margaret Bennet, Shane Ibbs, and David Heathfield. It was a delightful programme of talented storytellers all bringing new stories and approaches.

We will be continuing our Fireside Chats online, where we discuss a different theme relating to storytelling each month. The next is 21st Feb for National Mither tongue day. Come along to one of our sessions and join us to have your say in our programme for the next year, in person or online.

Phyll McBain & the GAS committee

https://grampianstorytellers.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/grampianassocationofstorytellers

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News from The Village Storytelling Centre

 

Into the new year with The Village Storytelling Centre

This is a huge hello from The Village Storytelling Centre in Glasgow as we see 2024 stretched before us like a wonderful canvas filled with colour and opportunity. For those unfamiliar with our work at The Village, we are Scotland’s leading applied storytelling organisation who dream of a world where people and communities are inspired, connected and heard. Through our work of embedding the power of story in communities we use storytelling as a tool to make person centred, collaborative, participant led projects and programmes that explore a huge variety of human experience. We are fast approaching our 25 year anniversary and in that time we have worked in all the following contexts; mental health, homelessness, drug and alcohol recovery, kinship care, dementia consultation, prisons, hospitals, complex and additional support needs to name but a few. We are recognised nationally and internationally for our work in communities and we’re hugely excited about our next steps.

However, what does all this mean for the new year? Well, not only will we be continuing our community centred work in Pollok with our early years, children and young people’s programme, we also have a huge list of interesting projects in the pipeline exploring a variety of different perspectives on human experience. Perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community, from complex learning needs contexts, from new Scots and other underrepresented voices across Glasgow and beyond.

Many of these perspectives will be presented during our biennial festival, The Village Storytelling Festival. Please put the 25th – 30th June in your diary for this year’s Village Storytelling Festival at the CCA in Glasgow. There are many details to still work out but it promises to be a hugely exciting platform for many new and established performers across the UK and Europe. We will be offering two new commissions in the coming weeks so please keep your eyes peeled for performance opportunities. And, if that wasn’t enough, during the festival we will be hosting the Federation of European Storytelling (FEST) conference this year. Working in collaboration with 3 other organisations across the UK we will be hosting a whole range of storytellers and storytelling promoters for a three day extravaganza during that week in June.

This year will also see us launch the second iteration of our Emerging Storytellers programme. A 16 week paid placement here at the Village that supports new voices to build to a public performance during our festival but also participate and shadow our projects, developing skills in community facilitation and understanding the huge variety of contexts where storytelling can thrive. Last year’s pilot programme demonstrated the huge thirst for storytelling across Glasgow and beyond, we can’t wait to welcome new faces into the organisation.

We are always looking to connect with people across the country, offering opportunities for everyone to engage with storytelling at any level. We are particularly keen to meet people who wish to explore the application of storytelling and its purposeful use for personal, community or organisational development. If you’re keen to connect then feel free to get in touch with us here – dan@villagestorytelling.org.uk. We’ll regularly be updating everyone through the newsletter so watch this space for more updates and information. In the meantime, enjoy your start to 2024 from Dan Serridge,Storyteller and Artform Development Lead, The Village Storytelling Centre.

News

Memories of Jack Martin “Comedy was in Jack’s bones.”

By Anne Pitcher

 

 4th June 1933 – 7th November 2023

Jack Martin was an extraordinary storyteller who sadly died at the end of 2023. He will be sadly missed by all in the storytelling community, not only in Scotland but world-wide. Jack lived in Edinburgh his whole life. He became a storyteller after a lifetime as an entertainer and puppeteer, doing pantomime for 16 years and stand-up comedy on stage and in bars. For thirty-five years he worked full-time as a joinery instructor in a Rehab Team, providing support to psychiatric patients in the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. All Jack’s stories came from his imagination, often humorous and set in his own hometown.

Several storytellers shared their memories of Jack

Bea Ferguson: “I met Jack many years ago, when he was brought along to the Guid Crack Club by the wonderful John Fee -they don’t make them like those two anymore!

At first, Jack was reluctant to tell a story; “I am an entertainer, not a storyteller” he told me. Can you be one without the other? But he certainly entertained us all.  His stories were all his own, full of humour, pathos and incredible imagination and he always left us sore with laughter and begging for more.

I asked him to tell a story at my 70th birthday party in the Bruntsfield Hotel.  He wrote a story especially and I only wish I had asked him to write it down for me. Many of my friends were from other strands of my life and it was their first introduction to storytelling – he did us proud!

We worked together for several years in the Life Stories Group, where we went into Care Homes to tell stories.  It is sadly no more, but Jack and I carried on individually and together we worked with the newly formed Dementia Group at the Festival Theatre.

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Jackie Carothers: I knew Jack for over twenty years, as we were both members of the Edinburgh based Life Stories Group, storytelling at day centres, care homes and church groups. As a novice storyteller I was struck by Jack’s skill in building an immediate rapport with his audience and by the sheer marvel of his storytelling. He used his imagination to turn an ordinary or at least familiar event — a game of golf, participating in the Commonwealth Games, a visit to Jenner’s department store, a trip to Mars — into a hilariously improbable tale suitable for people of all ages. Comedy was in Jack’s bones.

Jack was always a star performer at the Guid Crack Club and Cafe Voices.  He was the instigator of the “Tall Tales” Oscars and won the prize at least four times. Whenever he took the floor, the audience brightened in happy anticipation of the laughter to come and were never disappointed! He was a real ‘people person’.

Jack was very supportive to apprentice storytellers, including myself. He kindly appraised several of my storytelling sessions for older people, giving references for my application to the TRACS Directory of Storytellers. Jack remained my mentor, always willing to listen to me going over stories, helping me pronounce Scottish dialogue, always interested in my progress.

In 2015, I and several other storytellers got together to practise our stories before public performance, which soon became the “Burgh Blatherers” storytelling group, meeting monthly, putting on storytelling events at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Some members of the group, like Bob Mitchell, have gone on have their own shows. Jack was an honorary member and always attended Burgh Blatherers’ public events. We were delighted when he contributed a story to BB’s first book of stories “From the Burgh and Beyond”.

Bob Mitchell, Chair of ‘Burgh Blatherers’:

“As a very new apprentice, I quickly realised that Jack Martin was something special, not only because of his wonderful, unique stories but also because of the respect in which he was so obviously regarded by so many. When the time came to apply for the register of storytellers, I was asked to provide a few short expressions of support from experienced tellers to augment those given by my two mentors. Such was the awe in which I held Jack, and bearing in mind the fact that I didn’t think he could know me all that well, I hesitated to ask him, but I did anyway. Jack’s thoughtful response was so generous and freely given that I was quite overwhelmed. And eternally grateful.

Living as I have done, in Haddington for the past fifty years, family excursions to Brunton Theatre pantomime in Musselburgh, was an annual, much anticipated highlight throughout my three children’s childhood (and beyond). Imagine my surprise when I realised many years later that the funny man who amused us in various guises for upwards of a decade, was none other than Jack Martin! Happy days and a true legend!”

Michael Kerins, ‘Better Crack Club’ Glasgow:

I first met Jack Martin at the same time as I met the late John Fee at Guid Crack in the Waverly pub in Edinburgh. Sometime around the turn of the century.

I didn’t realise then how much of an influence he would have in my life both inside and outside of storytelling.

Jack was a man of very generous nature, he and Mary were often guests at my special storytelling house parties, known as Best Seat In the House. Jack came and met my family and he showed my son Dominic how to engage with puppets. Jack was an expert in Punch and Judy.

Dominic still has the puppets that he and Jack made together.

Soon Jack and I became correspondents and we would write to each other. I still have letters from Jack that I don’t really want to show to anybody else but they were just so special. Jack and his late wife Mary came as guests to Glasgow as headliners at Better Crack. On one occasion he gave his £100 fee in cash to me and whispered,

“put this into S.L.A.T.E Charity and your projects for the Russian orphans.”

The Jack Martin I remember was a very kind man. Everyone who knew him will  remember his humour and how marvellous he was at Tall Tales. Jack won the trophy, which he built and designed himself from a garden gnome, so often that new rules were brought in so that that year’s winner would present it to the next year’s successful storyteller. It didn’t stop him winning, it just meant he won it less often.

One of the many lovely experiences I had with Jack was when we headlined at a programme put together by Donald Smith called The Two Jacks and the idea was our images were to be super implanted on playing cards.  I didn’t like the idea of him getting TOP BILLING being Jack and Michael. I suggested Michael and Jack and what a laugh we had about that. The programme went ahead as The Two Jacks and the cards used were Jokers and it was a great success. I wish we’d done more of those evenings; we were perfect foils for each other.

Jack’s generosity also extended to sending gifts to my grandchildren and once he sent me a little throne which I still have. It was for my character weetom. I asked Jack what this was about and he said.

“It’s because weetom is the King of Scottish storytelling characters, and he needs somewhere to sit!”

Jack was a man of very strong faith and I still have his letter wherein he asks me for prayers when  his beloved Mary became ill, devotion personified.  Jack loved Mary very much, they were married for a long time and had a marvellously strong family that were very much part of his life he brought his granddaughter Katie to Best Seat in the House here at my place in Glasgow and he was very proud of her making a living as a musician and going to Manchester to follow her dream.

Jack was a fine athlete, a long-distance runner and cyclist. He made up a very funny story based on a cycle ride that went skewwhiff and he was rescued by “Marilyn Monroe.”  Jack’s mimicry and impersonation of “Marilyn Monroe” would let the audience think that she was in the room. With his breathless and exhausted voice, she was ever so ready to help and he was ever so ready to let her.

Jack as Santa with Bea Ferguson’s Grandchildren

 

Mark Foster, Jack’s son:

Jack Martin was an incredible man, a wonderful father, grandfather and great grandfather, who began life on 4th June 1933 in the St James area of Edinburgh, in a tenement flat. An only child, his family later moved to Lady Wilson Street within view of Edinburgh Castle. As a teenager he was given a magic kit, which started him on the road to becoming being a magician, later doing pantomimes as the Magician, Wizard or Baddie and even pantomime dame! He acquired his stage name and became Jack Martin. After time spent in National Service with the RAF, Jack set up his own joinery business. Later he worked in the Royal Edinburgh Day Hospital Rehab centre doing carpentry with the psychiatric patients. In September 1960 he married the love of his life, Mary, who sadly died in 2022 after 62 years of marriage. They had three children Martin, Mark and Simon and have six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

In their spare time, Mary and Jack did Punch and Judy and Magic shows together. Mark, their middle son recalled being the assistant, JOJO Bear, distributing Opal Fruits as prizes at these shows. Jack also did stand-up comedy in adult cabaret, children’s parties and magic shows. He was an extra on many TV series and films, such as ‘Still Game’, Taggart, Tutti Frutti, deriving many hilarious tales. He was regularly Santa in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Jack naturally became a storyteller, being introduced to the storytelling scene by John Fee at the Guid Crack Club in Edinburgh, many years ago.

Jack had a deep Christian faith, evidenced by the kindness and good humour, which he showed wherever he went and in whatever he did. He was a very good runner and keen cyclist. In the 1958 Empire Games, he came fourth in the Marathon – the first three runners went on to represent their country in the Olympic Games. In the 1980 Marathon, as a Veteran, he was only 2.34 minutes slower than the winning younger marathon runner! Jack was still running to well into his 80s which kept him very fit. Sadly it was a heart attack which took his life at the age of 90 on 7th November 2023.

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Memories of Lindsay

By David Campbell

 

Lindsay Porteous  1948 -2023

A visit to Lindsay’s house in Culross was an introduction to Lindsay. His house was halfway between an obstacle course and a museum. He had collections of toys, toy soldiers, Dinky toys and model guns. Apart from the collection of stringed instruments, wind instruments, mouth organs and of course Jew harps of many kinds. He also invented his own instruments and of course he liked to style himself ‘twanger’.

His Christmas cards were equally unique, part Kafka-esque rant against the labyrinthine indecipherability of officialdom. He also filled these Christmas cards with detailed descriptions of music sessions in Stockbridge and Sandy Bell’s Bar. This was punctuated with his frustration at the inadequacies of the bus service and difficulties of getting in and out of Culross.

Household bills for utilities gas electricity and telephone were battlefields with authorities and elicited eloquent outraged outbursts.

Lindsay found companionship with Margaret who for a while attended his music sessions in various venues. This relationship while it lasted was a boon since she wrote an eloquent appeal to the social benefits authority which successfully provided Lindsay with a pension.

A mighty pal, fellow traveller and performer was Duncan Williamson – for Lindsay and Duncan my house was a home from home and a meeting place. They shared the large front room and slept there. Duncan used to await Lindsay’s return from Waverley Market Garage Sales each Sunday. ‘I wonder what rubbish Lindsay will bring back this week?’ Duncan would say. Like the volcano, amongst the ashes could be gold; perhaps a fine instrument or instrument that could be put together into something new and ingenious by Lindsay. When Duncan died a very tearful Lindsay phoned me to tell me the news.

To me Lindsay’s visits were welcome and an entertainment, as were his performances at the Storytelling Centre although some of his jokes were anticipated with some apprehension by Donald Smith.

In a world where people seem to be largely predictable as expressed in the song ‘Little Boxes’ Lindsay was refreshingly himself and that made it a joy and enrichment to have known him. Memories of Lindsay always bring a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart.

 

 

Find out more about Lindsay and listen to some of his amazing playing on the link below which takes you to the ‘rare tunes’ website.

 

https://raretunes.org/lyndsay-porteous

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Story Harvest – Book Review

by Erin Farley

Story Harvest (Orkneyology Press, 2023) brings together tales gathered by storyteller David Campbell over a lifetime of telling traditional stories. Campbell and his distinctive style of storytelling have been a mainstay of the traditional arts in Scotland for decades, and this new collection feels like both a reflection on a life well lived in story and a renewed commitment to passing on tales for others to tell.

Story Harvest is deeply rooted in Scottish storytelling traditions, particularly Traveller and Highland culture, tales from which form the core of Campbell’s wide-ranging repertoire. They are accompanied by stories picked up on the author’s travels to Japan, the United States, Australia and elsewhere. Most of the stories are introduced with a small note, in which Campbell shares some background to where he learned it, or the story’s role in his life, in the way they often would be in a live performance. Sometimes, these also include tips on telling the story as a performance, suggestions for actions or places to invite audience interactions.  Although these notes are a relatively small part of the text, they go a long way towards bringing the stories to life, drawing you into the journey of collecting stories and reminding us that traditional story collections are at their best as a text which invites you to tell them aloud. Campbell’s writing reflects the flow of stories in voice, and in many places we are reminded of the overlaps between song, story and tune in Scottish tradition. ‘Loch Lomond’ recounts the story of the famous song’s composition by a piper sentenced to execution following the battle of Culloden, evoking not just the music itself but a powerful testament to the process of passing things on and how they resonate centuries later.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of the book is the way that, in several of the stories, Campbell’s writing shifts towards something almost like free verse, with line breaks evoking the rhythm of the spoken story. This works equally well – though to very different effects – in his versions of the Traveller tale ‘Auld Cruivie’ and the Japanese supernatural legend ‘Yuki-Onna.’ In ‘Yuki-Onna’, the verse-like way of telling builds up suspense in short, lyrical yet terse lines, creating a genuinely haunting story:

“The woman white as snow bent over him,

Lower and lower,

until her face almost touched his.

He saw that she was very beautiful,

though her eyes put fear into him.”

If you have heard David Campbell perform live, you will know that he brings a sense of enjoyment to his bardic role that is impossible to resist as a listener. This sense of humour and mischief shines through at many points in the collection, and in stories like ‘Gregor Armstrong,’ a ghost story told along with the unlikely tale of his learning it from a mysterious man in a Borders pub while on a storytelling trip with Duncan Williamson, real life and legend blurs in a very enjoyable way. Although a good collection of traditional stories is not always the sort of book which demands to be read in order, Story Harvest does move between tales with the flow of a live storytelling performance, gradually shifting from epic to tragedy to comedy and back again, connected by often small thematic links where one story brings another to mind. One such link works to great effect when ‘The Minister and the Skull,’ a darkly surreal Traveller’s tale full of enduring imagery, is followed by ‘The Holy Horse,’ a Western Isles story which is a wickedly enjoyable dig at self-important ministers.

As a storyteller myself, my favourite collections of traditional tales to return to are always those which remind you of the joy of the story as a living entity, something with its own sense of itself, to be collaborated with rather than simply performed. I have a feeling that Story Harvest is going to become one of these collections for me in years to come – it is a book of stories which makes you want to go and tell stories, and that is undoubtedly the best kind.